Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 60

Chapter 60 Snow covers the city

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Shentu Rui pulled a wooden stool from the nearby surroundings and settled himself before the imperial tent, lost in his own musings. The blood that had once stained his body was now washed away, leaving him somewhat refreshed, though his hair remained half-dried and unkempt, lazily gathered behind his back. Sipping on his tea, his mind raced with a mixture of excitement and exhaustion. Anyone who happened to glance his way couldn’t help but chuckle to themselves, for the fervent and imposing presence that usually surrounded him was conspicuously absent, leaving behind an unexpectedly comical sight.

With Taixing now beautifully under his control, Shentu Rui couldn’t help but hesitate at the city’s entrance. A wave of complicated emotions crashed over him, catching him off guard. It had been over a decade since he had last stepped foot in this place, and now he was back— this time, as its master. Even he struggled to fully grasp the atmosphere that enveloped him, finding it both daunting and awe-inspiring. But the one person who could soothe his troubled heart was nowhere to be found.

Taixing, the once-glittering imperial capital of Beimo. For Shentu Rui, it held a world of significance and emotion, a place where he had been born, raised, and ultimately forced to leave. As he sat and reflected on the past, he longed to once again enter the palace gates— this time, hand in hand with the woman he loved.     

The sun had begun its descent into the horizon, casting a warm golden glow over the entire encampment. In the aftermath of their victory, the soldiers laughed and joked boisterously, pairs of comrades diligently tending to their armor and weapons. The horses, unbridled, were left to graze lazily on the grass. The rising smoke from the campfires added an air of warmth and tranquility to the desolate surroundings.

Shentu Rui rose to his feet, his expression etched with concern. “Someone, bring me my horse! It’s getting late now, and even if we walked back from Beiji Mountain, we should have arrived by now.”

Sun Shi Xiang sprinted over from a nearby location, a silly grin plastered on his face. He asked knowingly, “Is Your Highness planning a trip to Beiji Mountain?”

Shentu Rui glared at him, well aware of Sun Shi Xiang’s increasing propensity for idle talk. Having followed him for years, Sun Shi Xiang could easily discern the Emperor’s mood with a single glance. Quickly shrinking his neck, Sun Shi Xiang scampered off to personally lead the Emperor’s horse. Nonetheless, he wasn’t overly concerned, believing that any residual frustration would fade after Shentu Rui met with Miss Fu Zhu later.

The stable master in charge of the horses was remarkably meticulous, taking care to personally release the horses into the grassy field behind the camp. With a brush in hand, he tended to a glossy chestnut colt. Seeing Sun Shi Xiang approach, he put down what he was doing and asked with a smile if he needed a horse.

Sun Shi Xiang looked at the horse he was brushing and his brow furrowed. “Isn’t this the Eldest Princess’s horse?”

The stable manager nodded. “It was just returned.”

Sun Shi Xiang suspected something was wrong and ordered the horses to be prepared before quickly running back to inform Shentu Rui.

As Shentu Rui and his men charged into Lan Cheng’s tent, they found her in front of the mirror, combing her hair as if just having woken up from a nap. Shentu Rui’s voice was stern as he asked, “When did you return? And where is Danyang?”

Lan Cheng made a surprised yet disdainful expression. “As soon as I heard that you had attacked Taixing, I returned. But she wanted to stay a little longer, so I let her. You know her, she always avoids me, clearly doesn’t want to travel with me. Why should I bother her?”

Shentu Rui’s face grew even paler. He turned around and left, his robes fluttering behind him. Once he was gone, Lan Cheng slammed her comb on the dressing table and shouted, “Everyone out!” The palace maids and eunuchs all trembled as they scurried out of the tent. Finally alone, Lan Cheng revealed a victorious smile in front of the mirror.

She was prepared for this, and when Sun Shi Xiang came to find her again in anger after dark, she deliberately threw a tantrum and smashed the porridge for their supper on the ground. “How could I know where Xiao Lan Dan went? She asked me to go ahead, so I did! My attendants all saw and heard it. They are all witnesses!” Sun Shi Xiang was not polite either. He waved his hand and called a team of soldiers to arrest all her servants in the tent. There was crying and screaming everywhere.

Lan Cheng was left alone in the empty camp, wondering if anyone had put down the tent curtain for her. Did they have to torture her servants like this? It seemed she overestimated her weight in Shentu Rui’s heart. He left her no room at all. After all, she was his younger sister, the Eldest Princess of Da Yan. But he still shamelessly dragged her servants away in front of her.

After a while, an emergency horn sounded in the camp, one after another. The soldiers gathered and she heard someone shout outside the tent, “Even if we have to dig three feet into the ground, we must find them!” 

Lan Cheng walked out of the tent, and the whole camp was brightly lit, illuminating the night sky. Everyone was busy with their tasks, forming lines, mounting horses, and flying into the night… not a single person paid any attention to her. It was already near midnight, the cold wind was piercing, and snowflakes were falling lightly in the air. The snow seemed to keep away from the fire pits and torches, but a few flakes landed on Lan Cheng’s face.  She silently walked back into her tent, pulled the curtains herself, but could not block out the tension and coldness that surrounded her. She trembled, holding her shoulders, unable to resist the fragility and fear. This was going to be a very long and restless night for everyone.

The candles in the tent burned down one by one as Lan Cheng sat motionless on the edge of her bed. She had no desire to add more, nor was it necessary, as the flames outside the tent still burned brightly, illuminating the interior through the canvas. It was approaching dawn, the coldest and darkest hour of the night. Lan Cheng exhaled deeply, rose from the bed, and stepped outside. The snow still fell lightly, and the ground was muddy. In the distance, the Beiji Mountain was engulfed in flames from foot to peak, as if it were burning. It mirrored her emotions perfectly. She knew that Shentu Rui was suffering just as much as she was, but for different reasons. He was anxious, while she was terrified. The situation was far worse than she had imagined, and she dared not even consider the possible outcome. For her, there was no hope left.

When it was fully light outside, Lan Cheng could no longer sit still. She rode her horse to where Shentu Rui was, who was sitting motionless on his horse with a blank expression. The frost from the previous night still clung to his hair, making him look much older than he was. His face was haggard and tired, with no spark in his eyes. Yet, his brow was slightly furrowed, as if he were lost in thought.

The Beiji Mountain was neither too big nor too small. The army had been searching for the whole night, scattering out in a radius of two and a half kilometers, but they had found nothing. When Sun Shi Xiang rode back to report on the progress, he saw that Lan Cheng had not dismounted. He nodded briefly and asked if she was alright. It was only then that Shentu Rui realized she had arrived. He didn’t even glance at her and instead looked at Sun Shi Xiang with a concerned expression. Sun Shi Xiang tried to comfort him awkwardly, “There’s still no news… but no news is good news, right? Otherwise…” He couldn’t finish his sentence.

Otherwise, we would have stumbled upon the corpse by now, Lan Cheng thought to herself, her emotions in turmoil as she stole another glance at Shentu Rui. He gazed back at her blankly, devoid of any emotion.

“Whether we find her or not,” he let out a deep sigh, “I don’t want to lay my eyes on you again.”

One plain and emotionless sentence almost caused Lan Cheng to tumble off her horse. Did he really just say those words to her?

Su Yi Ming came galloping over, having spotted Lan Cheng but pretending not to, he threw a significant look at Shentu Rui. “A corpse has been unearthed in the forest ahead!”

Shentu Rui’s expression grew even more grim. Without a word, he followed Su Yi Ming on horseback to the scene of the crime. Lan Cheng’s eyebrows rose. Even though things had come to this point, she was eager to see how Shentu Rui would react to the death of Lan Dan!

The body belonged to a well-built man, recently murdered and buried in fresh earth. The large group’s search uncovered it quickly. Shentu Rui and Su Yi Ming remained silent, and Lan Cheng’s complexion grew even worse upon laying eyes on the corpse.

Sun Shi Xiang brought a middle-aged man who collected herbs and encouraged him to explain to Shentu Rui, who was clearly anxious. The man was intimidated by the crowd, but he mustered up the courage and said, “If this person cannot be found, he probably fell into the Bagong Gully. It snowed yesterday, the ground is slippery, and the water in the gully has risen. If he fell in, he may have been washed to the lake in the mountain hollow to the east.”

Shentu Rui’s hope was reignited, and he didn’t even have time to thank the man. He turned his horse to the east and rode away.

Su Yi Ming and Sun Shi Xiang followed closely, leaving the rest of the horses behind. The weather was still gloomy, and snow was still falling. The possibility of survival after falling into the water and being washed downstream was so small that they didn’t dare to think about it, let alone say it out loud.

When Shentu Rui saw the mountain hollow where the small lake was located from a distance, he slowed down. In fact, he understood everything and had thought of everything. When he had to face the result, he was really afraid. Last time when Lan Dan wanted to escape, he was sad and disappointed, but this time… he faced death, a farewell that could not be undone by any force.

“That is… that is…” 

Shentu Rui’s mind was lost in a frenzy of emotions, and he failed to notice Sun Shi Xiang’s gaze fixed on the distant figure first. The sight of her caused his heart to tear apart with overwhelming ecstasy, rendering him breathless. He charged forward, propelled by the desperation to confirm that it was indeed her. His mind was consumed by a singular thought, causing him to forget the quickest way to reach her. As he rode his horse, his composure betrayed him, and he could not remain still. Disregarding the horse, he jumped off before it had stopped and rushed towards the person who had vanished for only one night, but whose absence felt like a lifetime. He was a mess, stumbling and tumbling as he ran, his clothes covered in mud and dirt, but he remained oblivious to his disheveled state. His heart raced as his chest heaved with the force of his emotions, his breathing ragged, his throat a fiery blaze, and his limbs weakened. But his eyes remained transfixed on her, equally disheveled, yet radiant amidst the chaos.

As Shentu Rui embraced her, her face was ashen, drained of color, yet her eyes shone with a piercing brightness, resembling a rare gemstone. She pursed her lips, robbing him of speech, her delicate features evoking tenderness and compassion. “It’s cold,” she murmured, her voice barely audible above the din of his heartbeat. “So cold, Shentu Rui, I’m so cold.”

Lan Dan was awakened by the warmth emanating from the multiple braziers lit within the tent. After having been cleaned and dressed in fresh and comfortable clothes, she slept soundly throughout the night. However, Shentu Rui, who had been keeping watch by her bedside, looked decidedly worse for wear. His complexion was pallid, and he had dark circles that bore witness to his weariness. Lan Dan pursed her lips in disapproval and regarded him sternly. Despite having cleaned her hands and face, there was still dirt on her hair which she couldn’t help but find negligent. “Go fetch some water,” she commanded, noticing that his lips were dry and chapped.

Shentu Rui appeared to have misheard Lan Dan’s command. Upon seeing her awake, his face brightened, and he exclaimed in a flurry, “You need water? I should have given you some earlier!” He scrambled to fetch water for her, while Xia Xin stood nearby with a smirk, not bothering to lift a finger to help.

“I said I want you to drink!” Lan Dan’s vitality had rebounded sufficiently, and she spoke with renewed vigor as she took a sip of water.

Shentu Rui, having been deprived of a proper rest for so long, was now swept away by joy, causing his wits to scatter. Regardless of what Lan Dan said, he obediently nodded and drank water as directed.

Lan Dan cast her eyes about and caught sight of Ge Chun, who was still diligently brewing medicinal porridge. She inquired softly and with concern, “Are you still here?”

Ge Chun nodded with unusual kindness, “I think it would be best if you talk to him directly.”

Lan Dan smiled and sat up straight, speaking clearly and crisply to Shentu Rui, “Shentu Rui, I am with child.”

Shentu Rui, who was quietly drinking water, was taken aback by her sudden announcement and spewed out the water, coughing uncontrollably.

Ge Chun could hardly bear the sight of this couple any longer. He let out a sneer, abandoned the porridge and rose to leave. Xia Xin was laughing so hard that her face turned beet red. She was afraid of making a fool of herself and quickly followed Ge Chun out.

Lan Dan raised her eyebrows calmly and spoke serenely, “As you once told me, each person has their own destiny. The child who was exchanged for Lan Huang had a very shallow connection with her. But this child…” She gently caressed her belly, “fell off the mountain with me and into the river. Though I was worried sick for him, he has been thriving ever since. I know he is thriving, which indicates that his fate with us must be very profound.”

Shentu Rui had already walked over and tightly clasped her hand. He had regained his usual cold and arrogant demeanor, but his mind remained scrambled. With great sincerity, he said, “If it’s a boy, I’ll make him the Crown Prince! If it’s a girl, I’ll find the world’s most suitable man to be her husband, or she’ll live in the palace for life, never to marry and leave us!”

Lan Dan smiled with satisfaction and replied, “Hmm, that’s settled then.” She removed her hand from his grip and gently caressed his face. “You look exhausted. Your complexion is so pale…”

Shentu Rui gazed into her eyes and spoke candidly, “I’m not tired, I’m just frightened.”

Lan Dan nodded, her heart full of understanding for Shentu Rui’s emotions. “I know, I know…” she repeated, her voice trembling, “When you were struck by an arrow, I felt the same way.” Her voice broke, “Because I know the pain of losing one’s other half, that’s why I can’t give up. I can’t leave you alone and heartbroken.” She pressed a kiss to his cheek. “There were times I thought I couldn’t go on. I couldn’t hold onto the vine, and I didn’t have the strength to grab onto the driftwood… But I can’t die, I have to be with you, and our child. He or she will become a Crown Prince or meet the best man in the world.” Tears trickled down her cheeks. “Shentu Rui, I can’t die, I have to be with you…”

Shentu Rui shut his eyes, bending his head to rest on her bosom, not wanting her to witness his tears. “Mm, you have to stay with me. I’m not dead yet, so you can’t die either…”

Lan Cheng arrived before the lamps were lit, choosing a moment when Shentu Rui was absent. She did not take a seat and instead stood five steps away from Lan Dan’s bed. The tent was dimly lit, shrouding Lan Cheng’s expression from Lan Dan’s sight.

Lan Cheng’s voice was cold as ice when she asked, “Do you know it was me?” She had sent an assassin to push Lan Dan off the cliff and had ordered the assassin to be killed, leaving only Lan Dan as the sole survivor. She had woken up half a day ago, but no one had come to arrest her. Lan Cheng had always thought that she was clever and had covered her tracks well, but she hadn’t expected that Lan Dan would still know the truth.

Lan Dan sat on the bed, her expression mocking. “I didn’t say anything for the sake of Shentu Rui,” she said, looking at Lan Cheng with disdain. She was the only bloodline left by Shentu Rui’s mother, and Lan Dan didn’t want to cause him any more pain. 

He had always thought that his sister was a little too headstrong, and Lan Dan didn’t want him to know that his own blood was capable of such malice. “You can leave now. I don’t want to see you. I detest you…”

Lan Dan’s heart raced as she heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Before she could finish speaking, Shentu Rui lifted the curtain and entered. Lan Dan felt like a criminal caught red-handed and couldn’t help but feel guilty, even though she had done nothing wrong.

Shentu Rui walked past Lan Cheng without even sparing her a glance. Finally, he stopped and turned around, his eyes cold and distant. “We have discussed with the ministers and have decided to choose a princess to marry the Prince of Beimo as a marriage alliance. There is only one princess in Da Yan, which is you. You can go prepare for it and don’t need to return to the capital with us.” 

Lan Cheng stood stiffly, without saying a word, and turned and left.

Lan Dan understood that Shentu Rui knew full well what Lan Cheng had done, but she didn’t want to confront him. After all, Lan Cheng was going to marry far away, and this matter would forever remain a mystery. “Prince of Beimo?” she deliberately asked, “Who is he?”

Shentu Rui absentmindedly smiled, “Who else could it be but Uncle Yinghe Zan?”

“What?” Lan Dan was taken aback. Yinghe Zan was at least forty years old, while Lan Cheng was only sixteen! “Is this… appropriate?”

“There’s nothing inappropriate about it,” Shentu Rui’s tone was unwavering. “Uncle Yinghe Zan has never married until now, and Lan Cheng… perhaps she is a little comfort bestowed upon him by heaven.”

Lan Dan didn’t say anything further. Did she still oppose this marriage and keep Lan Cheng here in front of her?

The ceremony to officially enter Taixing Prefecture had been delayed for three days due to Lan Dan’s disappearance, but they finally made it into the imperial city. Shentu Rui’s feelings had become calmer, perhaps because finding Lan Dan had taken all his energy. He felt indifferent to the joy and emotions of conquering his homeland, and was even a little tired of it. He wanted to return to his palace with Lan Dan and their child, and spend their days together in peace. He looked at Lan Dan beside him, and led her up to the highest point in the whole imperial city of Taixing Prefecture, Jingtai Tower.

He gazed out at the endless grassland surrounding the city and said to her, “The “mo” in Beimo doesn’t mean desert, it means grassland. I was born here, but I don’t belong here anymore.”

Lan Dan squeezed his hand, worried that he might be upset.

He chuckled, feeling somewhat sentimental and teasing, “Luckily, I left. If I had grown up here, galloping on horseback across this vast expanse of land, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today, who likes a girl like you.”

“A girl like me?” Lan Dan repeated in a tone that suggested she didn’t quite like it, as if asking, “What’s wrong with a girl like me?”

Shentu Rui’s lips curved upward into a smile as he offered an explanation, “I am a master of endurance, so when I catch sight of you also enduring in the depths of the palace, I feel a sense of kinship…”

Upon descending the tower, Shentu Rui found Empress Dowager Jiao Rong and her son Bai Ling waiting for him at the base of the stairs. Both were dressed in plain garments and bowed their heads, patiently awaiting the young man whom they had once forced into exile from Taixing Prefecture.

From atop the platform, Shentu Rui peered down at them, “Empress Dowager, Brother Bai Ling, it’s been more than a decade since we last met. I could hardly recognize you now.”

Empress Dowager Jiao Rong and Bai Ling quivered, refusing to look up at him.

“I hated you both back then, but as I grew up, I realized that your decision was not so difficult to understand. If we switched places, I might have done the same.” He smiled, “Go on, go to the Canglong River in the extreme north of Beimo and experience what it’s like to be exiled a thousand miles away.”

Shentu Rui watched as the guards took away the former rulers of Beimo. The same perilous fate he and his mother had once faced would soon befall them. There were many tribes and people in the region who would not tolerate their existence, and how far they could go would ultimately depend on their fortunes.

“What is your name in Beimo?” Lan Dan held his hand tightly, knowing that she couldn’t let go at this moment.

“Bai Xu… My name is Bai Xu,” Shentu Rui whispered and closed his eyes, feeling a bitterness rise in his heart.

As the newly-appointed Prince of Beimo arrived in the capital city to pay his respects, it was almost the New Year, and several snowfalls had blanketed the city, turning it into a glistening crystal world.

This was Lan Dan’s first meeting with Yinghe Zan. When they were in Taixing, she had missed the chance to meet him due to his unfinished affairs. After the formal audience, he immediately left to return the ashes of the late Consort Xi, holding them carefully in his hands without letting go.

Shentu Rui personally saw his uncle off, feeling uneasy as he watched her staring blankly at Yinghe Zan’s figure. “Wipe your drool, it’s about to freeze,” he sneered, feeling a sense of jealousy rise within him.

Lan Dan continued to watch Yinghe Zan’s handsome figure riding through the snow, suddenly feeling indignant. “It’s too easy for Lan Cheng! He’s not just an old man, he’s… he’s… a peerless handsome man! Though not as tender as Shentu Rui, his mature charm is also very attractive.” She gave Shentu Rui a sidelong glance and asked, “If you were in Yinghe’s tribe, would you be considered an ordinary person?”

Shentu Rui rolled his eyes and ignored her cruel question..

Suddenly, she let out a cry and her face paled. Tears streamed down her face, and Shentu Rui became anxious. He held her shoulders and anxiously asked, ‘What’s wrong? Are you feeling unwell? Is your stomach hurting?”

Lan Dan was already weeping, clutching onto Shentu Rui’s waist with immense sorrow. “I forgot, my face is fake. What if our child looks like me in the future? Forget about comparing with Yinghe Zan, even compared to you, there will be a gap.”

Shentu Rui felt frustrated and snorted, not speaking for a while. Seeing how sad she still was, he finally couldn’t bear it and comforted her, “Don’t worry. The bloodline of the Yinghe tribe is particularly strong. Even a mere trace of it is enough to pass on beauty.”

Tears flowed until her nose reddened, and she asked incredulously, “Really?”

Shentu Rui sneered and said, “Don’t you remember what Shentu Rong Qing looked like? He was so… ugly…” He seemed to have trouble finding the right words, then retaliated, “He was much uglier than your original appearance. Look at Shentu Cheng. Isn’t his appearance also pretty good?”

Lan Dan found no comfort in Shentu Rui’s words, and instead, her heart sank even deeper. Was she truly that unattractive in the past?

Sensing her distress, Shentu Rui felt compelled to say something uplifting. With a deep affection in his voice, he assured her, “You weren’t unattractive before. You had me completely enchanted. Lan Huang couldn’t even compare.”

Lan Dan cried and smiled at the same time, nodding in agreement to Shentu Rui’s words.

“Shentu Rui, let’s go to the city wall,” Lan Dan suggested, wiping her tears on his cloak. She suddenly became excited again.

“Why?” Shentu Rui asked, not understanding her sudden change in mood.

“I want to see Yinghe Zan again,” Lan Dan replied.

“Don’t take it too far!” Shentu Rui warned through gritted teeth.

Hand in hand, they made their way up the city wall, where the sky was a flurry of goose feather snow. As they watched the trail of hoof prints gradually disappear into the white expanse, they knew that his story was now his alone to carry.

Lan Dan and Shentu Rui watched him with endless emotion in their hearts.

The snow adorned the city, adding a touch of magic and enchantment to its already bustling and vibrant streets. As they gazed upon it, they couldn’t help but wonder if someday, their own children would stand here with their loved ones, marveling at the same sight and making promises of lifelong devotion.

But those stories…those were for others to live and tell.

(The End.)

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1 thought on “Fuzhu’s Ballad Chapter 60”

    Thank you sooooooo x 100 much for translating this gem. I felt that this incident where Lan Dan is kidnapped was necessary to really convey to the readers the love Shentu Rui has towards her.
    This novel is soo wonderfully written, the style is similar to Desposed Empress General. I’m at a loss for words to describe why I enjoyed this novel but all I can say is that I’m satisfied. Thanks again (´༎ຶོρ༎ຶོ`)


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